What can be mistaken for knee arthritis?

knee surgeon Health care

Knee arthritis can be caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage in the knee joint, leading to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. A knee surgeon can diagnose knee arthritis through a physical examination, X-rays, and other imaging tests. Other diseases can affect the knees and have some of the same symptoms. Here are some common conditions mistaken for knee arthritis:


Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in joints, including the knees. This can lead to sudden and intense pain, swelling, and redness in the affected joint. Gout attacks may be triggered by consuming certain foods or drinks high in purines, such as red meat, seafood, and alcohol. Gout is more likely to affect people with a family history of gout and those with other health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. To confirm a diagnosis of gout, a physician aspirates fluid from the affected joint and examine it for uric acid crystals. A knee surgeon has the expertise to differentiate between gout and knee arthritis and can offer the correct diagnosis and treatment plan.


Bursitis is when the bursae, tiny fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between bones and soft tissues, become inflamed. This occurs in the knee joint and cause pain, tenderness, and swelling. Bursitis is often caused by repetitive knee stress from kneeling or climbing stairs. It can also result from injury or certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. The key distinct feature between bursitis and knee arthritis is that bursitis usually causes pain on the outer side of the knee, while knee arthritis affects the entire joint. A knee surgeon can identify and treat bursitis to relieve symptoms and prevent further complications.

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Meniscal Tear

A meniscal tear is a common injury, often occurring during activities that involve twisting or pivoting of the knee. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, and difficulty moving the knee. Some meniscal tears heal independently with rest and physical therapy. Others may require surgery to repair or remove the damaged tissue. Depending on the severity of the tear, a knee surgeon can determine the best course of treatment for an individual. Meniscal tears often occur due to a specific injury or trauma, leading to a more sudden onset of symptoms than the gradual progression associated with knee arthritis. The catching or locking sensation experienced with a meniscal tear is less commonly observed in knee arthritis, where the symptoms may be more generalized and chronic.

Ligament Injury

The ligaments in the knee provide stability and support to the joint. They can become injured or torn due to sudden twisting or impact, causing pain and instability in the knee. The most common ligament injuries in the knee are tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL). Treatment of a ligament injury may involve surgery, physical therapy, or a combination of both. Recovery time will vary depending on the severity of the injury and individual factors. Ligament injuries tend to produce localized pain, often near the site of the injured ligament. Knee arthritis-related pain can be more general and affect multiple areas of the knee joint.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. While the exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, it is believed that abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain may play a role. People with fibromyalgia also experience tenderness and stiffness in the muscles, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems. Treatment for fibromyalgia often involves a combination of medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms. Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, many people find relief through proper management of their condition.

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Seek Professional Treatment from a Knee Surgeon

Knee pain can have a variety of causes, and proper diagnosis is key to getting effective treatment. There are various options available for managing pain and improving overall function. A knee surgeon can help determine the underlying cause of knee pain and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. Seek medical attention if you experience persistent or severe knee pain. A surgeon has the expertise to accurately diagnose and treat knee conditions, helping you return to normal activities.

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